Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A cut by any other name.

The other day I had a conservative blogger post a comment in which he distinguished between 'slowing the rate of growth' in government programs and a 'budget cut.'

So, now that we are learning more about the President's proposed budget, here are some indisputable cuts:

Targetted for elimination:

" The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food packages for some 400,000 low-income seniors.

" A preventive care block grant, which helps states provide preventive healthcare for "underserved populations."

" The TRIO Talent Search program, which helps colleges and universities assist disadvantaged teenagers so they can finish high school and go to college.

Facing serious cuts:

" Section 202 housing for low-income elderly, which would be cut 26 percent below the 2006 level.

" Section 811 housing for low-income people with disabilities, which would face a 50 percent cut.

" A 79 percent cut for Community Oriented Policing Services, which aims to put more police on the streets.

" Child Care and Development Block Grant, which would face more than $1 billion in cuts over five years. CBPP reports that by 2011 the number of children receiving child-care assistance would drop by more than 400,000, compared with the 2005 figure.

You may disagree with these programs, but clearly there are people who are on them now, who won't be in the future. They are the ones the cuts will hurt.

Now, they are claiming that it is to reduce the monstrous Federal budget deficit. It is true that we have a serious problem with the federal deficit (something that Republicans, after passing trillions in tax cuts and additional spending while arguing that the deficit was no big deal, have just recently 'discovered.') However, these cuts are not going, contrary to the spin from the right, to reduce it. That argument could be made, except that $70 billion of additional tax cuts are being pushed at the same time. So in effect, they are cutting housing for poor people so they can pay for more tax cuts for billionaires.

Support it if you want to, but don't try to tell me that these are not cuts.


C.H. Truth said...


I read a study about the efficiency of government programs. One of the biggest problems according to the study was that we had a tremendous amount of duplication of programs. IOW, you would have 6 different government programs effectively doing the same thing, but with 6 different bureaucracies to swallow up funding.

The example they used was funding for low income housing. You had a program dedicated to disabled vets, another program dedicated to homeless people, another program dedicated to single mothers, another program dedicated to left handed Irish Catholics with the first name of John.

Now... they showed a very lucid proposal that would have combined several of these programs to work under one bureaucracy. In this case the programs that were least efficient were virtually eliminated and a portion of the funds moved to the broader program. In other examples, the administration layers were cut back and these programs were only allowed to do what they did efficiently because it was cost effective. In the end, for a considerably smaller amount of funding, you could accomplish significantly more, all while streamlining your government?

Can you guess what happened to the proposal and why?

Well.. it was shot down mainly because anyone who supported it was immediately accused of attacking the low income voters. Didn't matter if under the new system, single mothers would see more aid for housing, all that mattered was that you voted to elimate a program that helped single mothers.

Now... imagine that a politician bears the cost of efficiency... it isn't hard to see how it would work the other way. Wanna help battered women find low income homes? Why propose adding funds to a program that already is in place and could work immediately to provide more help with the additional funding? Why not propose a whole new program that will inefficiently use a great deal of start up money to eventually accomplish what another program could have done better?

Why not, indeed?!?! The new program is a political winner, the added funding is a yawner.

So... look at the programs being eliminated and/or cut back... and ask yourself if there isn't another program already doing it. Don't get wrapped up in the political angle.

Zelle Brennan said...

I find it interesting that there is this hybrid philosophy on 'austerity welfare' combined with decidedly disastrous Fed policy regarding the valuation of the dollar and the deficit. Those with a false tendency toward the "laissez-faire" don't seem to realize that contrived dollar manipulation is incongruous.

Of all people, Greenspan wrote about this in his critique on our abandonment of the gold standard. Without a standard, the proper means for calibrating spending are circumvented. Now admittedly, preceeding monetary policy was far from asset-pure. He held the view that the welfare state is a means to redistribute wealth, a conduit for inappropriate resource control among members of a society. It appears that this thinking has spilled into our trade and global finance approach as well.

He made the contradiction case concerning social welfare, by coupling economics to currency correllated to a universal commodity, then to the role of the federal budget as an instrument of manipulation. Minus accountable currency, social welfare is a must,as a tool, as is contrived currency regulation.

People that say they want to cut essential programs to reduce the deficit might do better to consider the practices that lead to the POSSIBILITY of debt like the deficit we will bear witness too. Seniors and WIC babies are hardly to blame, but we know that it will be on their backs that the retraction will be exercised.

One has to wonder how long this game will work. Will the Iranian bourse fan the fire? Peak Oil? Trade imbalance hysteria?

Zelle Brennan said...

As for c.h. truth... there is truth in redundancy. But consider that very often vocal constituents dominate where programs are comingled. You can explore your position by looking at centralized services and what has happened with these models. Which have been successful in streamlining? Which have efforts have backfired?Now I am not suggesting that administration can't be cut back,but some points:

Service sectors often comprise a large percentage of employment, and part of the redundancy is fueled by the need to put more bees to work at the hive. I am not kidding when I tell you that I once worked in a governmental office where supervisors outnumbered the supervised! Officials use civil service jobs for the local economy. Right, wrong, or indifferent. Even when they contract out, its still about jobs.

Next: many times programs are coupled and one population is disproportionately served because they are a more vocal constituency. This can be seen in Mental health versus Mental Retardation,as an example. Or, conversely, the funding is available because of higher level lobbying efforts and one program's largess becomes another's safeguard.

Lastly, eligibility is different. Social services are all about the 'test'. What makes one eligible for one service can knock them out of another, etc. etc. Very difficult to coordinate all of the 'criteria' we put on people to determine if they are worthy and deserving. Its almost as foul as our tax code!

dorsano said...

Good points C.H.

Here's more on the budget

It looks like the cost of begining to dismantle Social Security is

* $24.182 billion in fiscal 2010,
* $57.429 billion in fiscal 2011
* $630.533 billion for the 5 years after that,

for a seven-year total of $712.144 billion

Plus - some BIG unknowns -

All to privatize just 4% of the program. I wonder what Congress will decide?

In the one corner we have an ideology that proudly proclaims that government can't do much good.

And in the other corner we have a distinctly American social contract that provides THE most efficient, effective and fair basic retirement security on the planet.

My bet is on Social Security - whether or not it's defended by the Democratic Party.

Eli Blake said...


Where these cuts are made up for by shifting the funding into other programs, and if the eligibility requirements for the other programs are expanded to accomodate those who were served by the programs being funded, fine. But given the track record of our government (both state and Federal) in the past few years of kicking people out of these programs, I am skeptical that this is what is happening. What programs are specifically being funded above their present levels? Very few social programs that I am aware of.

In fact, I just read an article in today's Arizona Republic in which half a million low income and mobility impaired seniors will no longer have groceries delivered to their nursing homes, churches (so much for 'faith based' services) and other collection points where they or volunteers can pick up the food easily. The administration's response is that they can go onto food stamps.

Of course, there are two flaws with that line of reasoning: 1) One reason many of them are on the program is because they are mobility impaired and can't easily go shopping in a supermarket, so giving them food stamps is about as useful to them as giving them an acre of land and some seeds, and 2) the administration seems to have anticipated this fact because funding for food stamps (now administered through the states who receive Federal Block grants) isn't going up.